Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remembering The Luneta Park!

While leaving the parking lot at the Quirino Grandstand after attending the clergy Christmas party in Ozeano, a fusion restaurant located in the LUNETA OCEAN PARK MANILA, I suddenly remembered a lot of memories spent in the park.

In my younger days, during the 60's and 70's, the Luneta Park is the most popular place of recreation and relaxation. Then, were mostly small department stores and restaurants and no malls. Now, malls had become the primary place of destination! Then, almost every Sunday and holidays, going to the Luneta Park (LP) had become a ritual especially for the poor who can not afford to go to other more distant and more expensive places. In the LP, you can be very satisfied by merely walking through it, squat or sit in a cool place when you get tired, buy ice cream or any "fastfood" being sold by ambulant vendors, and if you are there at the right time, watch the sun set at the historic Manila Bay.
Sampaguita Transit Hino NYB-853 & New E Jose Trans Hino RV (342) in Roxas Boulevarde at Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines. by express000.
The LP is a family's haven. It caters to everyone of every age and and status. The children could learn about Philippine geography by spending time on the Philippine map, the first feature you will see if you are coming from Taft Avenue. The whole LP goes up to the Manila Bay. Teens could enjoy the beautiful greens placed all over the LP. Lovers could spend more time together, even intimately, in the cozy Japanese Garden. Everyone could enjoy the rest the LP can offer; Rizal monument, different gardens, sunset, the big clock, and the open grounds.
Luneta (Rizal Park) by k♥money.
It used to be a source of fresh air for everyone. When I was about seven years old, my lungs were sick because I let my perspiration dry on my body (children, you know!). My grandmother would religiously bring me almost every morning at the LP for me to breathe in fresh sea air. The doctor told my lola that it will be very good for me. I look forward to that everyday trip to the LP for another reason; the opportunity to buy and eat boiled corn which was available always.

When I grew up to be a teenager, our "barkada" in Mandaluyong would visit the LP whenever there is an occasion; birthdays, end of school, Holy Week, and during the Christmas Season. One that we never missed was the to spend our time there after celebrating New Year's eve with our families. We would gather outside our home and bring anything from what was left of the media noche. We also brought guitars, cameras, blankets, books, or anything that will help us while away the wee hours of the morning until dawn. When all were set, we will ride to the LP. At that time, the LP were full of people. It was almost impossible to find a small place where we can spread our blanket and claim that piece of land for our group. But we were always lucky to squeeze in ourselves even if it would entail begging other groups to spare us some space no matter how small. The mood was very joyful. Almost everyone was willing to share their food, music, and even friendship. We came to meet a lot of friends during our yearly new visit to the LP.

Now, I wonder how the LP looks like? I had not made that walk from Taft Avenue to the Manila Bay. I wonder how is the LP during the early new year morning? Are still people going there at that time? I guess it is time to visit the LP again and find out for myself!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Now Is The Time To Enjoy The Joy Of Christmas!

Xmas_carols_inner_cover by PopKulture.Where is the joy that Christmas should bring? This is what seems to be lacking year after year when the Christmas Season begins. Yes, Christmas celebration is not just a day but a season, some number of days! Yet, after all the hype, preparations, and even panic before the day, almost nothing is left as soon as the Christmas Season begins.

Now is the time to sing and play those Christmas carols, give gifts, greet "Merry Christmas", reconcile, visit relatives and friends, party, etc. And, do not forget, do not remove your home decorations yet! We have at least three more weeks of celebration. Here in the Philippines, we do not end the season on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord as other Christian countries do. We end ours in the Feast of the Sto. Nino, the third Sunday of January.

Keep the spirit! It is still Christmas. Savor the joy the birth of the Lord brings! 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Feast of the Incarnation!

                                                    The greeting "Merry Christmas" was put under attack because it was biased to the Christian faith. In the United States, they were encouraged to greet "Happy Holidays" instead to make it a general celebration. Since when is a religious celebration a general celebration? While we Christians do not exclude and stop others from celebrating Christmas, why would our greeting be changed to a compromised greeting?

I came to know that almost all countries in the world are celebrating "Christmas"; but non-Christians celebrate it only in the external aspect. Christians celebrate it because of the birth of Jesus Christ, their savior. "Christmas" comes from the two words, "Christ" and "Mass". People of non-Christian religions join the celebration and at times make their own symbols and activities. Bug to change the very tradition of the religion to which the celebration belongs, is a very arrogant act. I was surprised that Christians affected by this do not plead and fight for their cause. Hs Christmas really become a general celebration? 

But come to think of it, the greeting "Merry Christmas" really needs change. I believe the appropriate greeting must be "Happy Feast of the Incarnation" or "happy Incarnation Day". The greeting perfectly gives the message of Christmas, which is the birth of the Savior. Specifically, the supreme act of God to save man by humbling Himself. He was God but decided freely to enter into humanity by becoming fully human! This is the essence of this feast. "merry Christmas" does not give due justice to the merit of the event.

Other religious feasts are more accurate and faithful to what they celebrate. For example, Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the Ramadan. It literally means "Festivity" (Eid) and "to break the fast" (Fitr); the Jewish Hanukkah means the Festival of Lights commemorating the rededication of the Jewish Temple. The celebration is marked by the lighting of the candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah; or the Buddhist Vesakh which is a Full moon Day. If Christmas is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and specifically God becoming man, the apt greeting should be "Happy Incarnation". In this way, the real meaning of the celebration is proclaimed just by the greeting alone. If changes are to made in order to help the faithful appreciate and reflect on the meaning this significant Christ-Event, "Happy Incarnation" is a very good replacement.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Incarnation (Christmas), Sole Act Of God

This is the day before Christmas and I again find myself reflecting on it not only because of the homily I will deliver later tonight and the whole day tomorrow, but also to imbibe its meaning in my life. Before I became a priest, Christmas was just an opportunity for me to obtain many gifts and spend happy times with my love ones. If I have those, Christmas is already "meaningful" to me. But since 1992, when I was ordained, Christmas had become for me a message to share than just an opportunity. 

Christmas is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. It happened on a silent night and a holy night. The Nativity was really a simple, humble and subdued event. God, in His love, decided to become human to personally  save humanity. The greatness of the act is beyond human intelligence. The act is purely divine. Only a God can do it. In fact, ONLY OUR GOD CAN DO IT, WILL DO IT, AND HAVE DONE IT! The meaning of the season rests on the deep understanding and appreciation of that act of God. Nothing less than a true grasping of that truth will make the Incarnation fully accepted and celebrated.

The challenge to a preacher like me is how to present it in human terms. That alone makes it difficult. How can an act of God be explained in human terms. How can an act of the Creator be fully contained in the limited words and experiences of a mere creature! The answer is; NO WAY! At most, maybe we can just have a trillionth of an iota of the idea of it. And that is being generous about it! But the process is not entirely hopeless. As Scripture says, God has inscribed His Word in our hearts. With the right attitude, deep faith, and the inspiration of God Himself in His Spirit, we can arrive at an acceptable appreciation of that truth. We will develop that reason to believe in what God had done for us more than two thousand years ago. 
Nativity Scene by trumpetflickr.
I remember, not an experience but a story I read when I was young, in a "komiks"magazine. The "komiks" is a common tao's magazine in the '70s which contains short stories presented through picture sketches by an artist. The story was about a crime reporter who was assigned by his editor to make an article depicting the life of a convict in maximum security awaiting his day of execution via the electric chair. He was not satisfied with just interviewing one or two of them. He believed that if his article will be credible and factual, he should experience living in the maximum security prison with the death row convicts. So, he approached the prison Chief and told him of his plan. The Chief readily agreed seeing the good it will do for everyone. In order to to preserve the essence of the plan, the agreement was made only between the reporter and the prison Chief. In this way, he will be staying in prison incognito throughout the course of his research. So one day, he entered the death row and was subjected to every process a death convict goes through. He was even given his own execution day! He was not given any special treatment; he ate what they ate, slept where they slept, did his share of prison chores, etc. The reporter was finding death row life very difficult but the prospect of making a realistic and factual report on the life of a death row convict inspired him to endure and go all the way. But something happened. As his execution day was drawing near, news arrived that the prison Chief was hospitalized and later died the day before the reporter's execution day! He was very worried but hoped that the Chief had relayed their secret to the responsible people before he died. On the day of his execution, he was fetched from his cell and was prepared for his death; the people he wanted to see, the last meals, the pastor for confession, his last words etc. Fear enveloped him. He asked to see the Chief. But he was told that the Chief had died. He told them about his agreement with the Chief. But nobody would believe him. They thought he was acting that way because of his impending death. He was shouting, kicking, grabbing, crying, wailing, and in great rage. All the time, he was telling them that it was a mistake and that he was there only for the article. With nobody believing him, he accepted his fate. Now he was actually dying. Worse, he was dying without having committed anything criminal. yet he was dying a criminals death. He was made to seat on the electric chair; put all the straps and the finally the head gear and the blindfold. He said his last prayers and submitted himself to God. The countdown began and he resigned his life. But before the final count, a voice whispered to his ear, "Now, you know how it feels?" It was the voice of the Chief who did not actually die but faked it so as to make the reporter really experience walking to his death! 

While this reporter experienced everything save for the actual execution, our Lord Jesus, went through everything including death. That is how much He loves us. That is the beauty and greatness of what God had done which he begun last Christmas day. He embraced our humanity totally! Reflect on that and you will discover JOY. J-esus, O-thers, and Y-ou!

I searched the dictionary for the right word to describe what God has done. I tried, "Sympathy" which is defined as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune. Not enough. Next, "Empathy" which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Again, not up to it. "Compassion" which is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Lacks something more. Finally, I tried, "Inculturation" which is the gradual acquisition of the characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, another culture, etc. Very close but still lacking. This just means that indeed the Incarnation is purely a divine act!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Shop Or Not To Shop

"Christmas cards have all been sent. The Christmas rush is through. And there's only one wish to make; a special one for you."

CTYL Holiday Shopping-31 by RichardJAnderson.

Two days before Christmas and people are now at the height of meeting their targets for the season. Some may have already done everything save for the Christmas eve immediate preparations. But a good number, I believe, are in their home stretch. Some may still make it on time, photo-finish. And if there will be those who will fall short, better luck next time.

As for me, I have decided not to join the band wagon. There's just too many gifts to prepare with little time to spend (and money too!). Traffic is always heavy and department stores are full. Especially these days. I remember some years ago, I told myself that I will just make a last ditch effort to buy gifts on the last day before Christmas. I was thinking that many people might have been over with their shopping and therefore, shopping will not be that difficult. To my surprise, it was contrary to what I expected. It was harder to get a pair of what you want. It was hardest to get on line and pay for what you bought. I ended up returning the good I planned to buy and just went home with nothing. 

Last minute shopping is not advisable because most of the prime goods had already been bought. You are lucky if you still find the pair, design, and size that you want. Most are left overs. Also, you do not have time to bargain. In most cases, you buy it without counting the cost! Also, rarely will you be satisfied with what you bought. You feel harassed.

And so, I decided that I will not join the shopping spree and season rush. But I was not successful. I just found myself in a mall on the 24th buying some things. Years ago it was easier because I only have a few "pamangkins". Now, they are just too many! But what can I do? Eeveryone should be given at least something. So, I need to have something for everyone. I guess, that is part of the spirit the season has developed in each one of us. Unfortunately, it is not the essence of the season. But it can still serve the purpose of Christmas if it is based on the fact that we are giving because we want to share and live the very charity our God had done for us. Something that seems to be missing from many people, and many are even Christians!

Days after Christmas, malls are still full of people. Some Tiangge's may have closed already, but the shopping spirit is still there. Maybe some are still catching up with their gifts by the new year. Nevertheless, it is still Christmas! And gift giving is still in season. In the same way, the birth of the Lord Jesus was not seen as the end of the salvific action of God but was part of the beginning of God's plan of salvation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As Long As It Is Just A Shoe?

Protesters Throwing Shoes at Bush posters in Montreal by Anirudh Koul. 

Many were startled at what was in the local and international news yesterday. Being played over and over was the video of US president Bush being hurled with  shoe from an Iraqi journalist during a press conference in Baghdad. I could not believe what I saw. The US president being shoe-attacked in a press conference??? When asked about his reaction, President Bush said that it was possibly a "size ten" (referring to the shoe) and the journalist was just wanting some attention! 

No doubt the incident was shocking already, but I was more shocked by his reaction. Either he was very afraid to further draw the ire of the Iraqi, just callous about the event, or just wanted to brush off the situation and render it as nothing. In any case, it seems like a vapid reaction to a very strong incident. I wonder how the American people reacted to it? His wife, Laura Bush thought that her husband did not deserve the treatment but later said that it was proof of the free expression in Iraq. Thanks to the U.S! I, myself, believe that it has to be dealt with fully according to existing laws and processes.

In the first place, the Presidency is not just about the person behind it. The Presidency is an office which represents the whole country. Any act against the presidency is an act against the whole country. If we are to interpret what happened to President Bush, it is an attack against the US government and citizenry at most, and to him at least. To president Bush, it can be dealt with lightly, but in another sense, he has to give concern to its effect to the US government.

The effect of the "weak" response from a strong country can never be fully known but it definitely sets a precedent, and a bad one at that. Hopefully, its consequences are manageable, or better that it be regarded as something not worth repeating. Otherwise, all leaders, especially presidents, and all security personnel, should guard against similar actions not only from the press but from anyone who is in a position to throw a shoe, a pen, a chair, or anything they can grab. But hopefully, no explosives!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Come On!

Yvo Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC which is having its talks regarding climate change in Poznan Poland, said that the expected results for the next UNFCCC meeting at Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, may not be achieved! The present talks are being bogged down, among other things, by how the Adaptation Fund would be managed. Developing countries wanted a direct access to it but developed countries wanted it to go through the World Bank. They hope that the high level segment meeting, which happens in the last two days of the conference and which will involve top environment officials of each member country, would resolve the issue.

This is very alarming! This questions the sincerity of the concerned (those who are responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere) countries. Since the early sixties, clarion calls had been sounded off regarding the rapid degradation of the earth due to increase in average global temperature resulting to climate change. Couple this with the abuse that had been made in nature, we may have the perfect combination for the sixth extinction! But this time, slower but painful! The United Nations had been in this for more than twenty years now. The Kyoto Protocol was a big step in forcing countries to make commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (save for the U.S. which is the only member nation that had not signed the protocol). But more is needed to be done. The UN had identified four building blocks, Adaptation, Mitigation, Financial Assistance, and Technology Transfer. Fourteen general meeting and many more sectoral meetings had been done, but a final document is yet to materialize. This dilly-dallying, many scientists had predicted, will cost us so much including the lives of billions! The clock is ticking. Ice is melting in the Arctic, global temperature continues to rise because of continuous gas emissions, sea water level is rising, etc.

Vested interests dominate the talks. Developed countries do not want to jeopardize their economy which is super-dependent in fossil fuel. Some who had made commitments were not being faithful to them. Those who believe they can cope with the envisaged onslaught of the devastation to come are not in panic mode whereas those who will be affected first, who are ironically not responsible for the gas emissions, are in quandary! So much time had elapsed that many were of the opinion that we had reached the point of no return! 

Everybody is of the opinion that the time has come for a change of lifestyle. In the end, all the adaptations, mitigation, and counter-actions would not be sufficient. The amount of devastation it would incur may reach a very high proportion unpredicted and unprecedented in humankind history. One economist estimated that it will be more than the two World Wars and the Great Depression combined! Unless we get out of our selfishness and individualism, we are doomed. Some may go first, but definitely, all will follow!

God Bless Us!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Dollar A Year Salary!

Executives of the big three car companies (Chrysler, GM, and Ford) are doing a lot of "desperate moves" in order to salvage the impending (or is it climaxing?) collapse of their companies. Turnaround plans were submitted to the US Congress in order to secure lucrative loans that will help them survive the present financial meltdown.
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Part of their promise is to have their CEO's received a token $1 a year salary! Further, the CEO's will not anymore use their company planes to shuttle from their homes to the office. Instead, they will make use of hybrid cars that will take them 9 hrs. compared to just two hours of travel by plane. There were other suggestions all of which were to convince Congress to grant them loans.
Verschiedene Ansichten auf Ein-Dollar-Noten
I have heard of this set-up which was usually adopted by individuals who just wanted to serve. There are people who are only willing to share their time and talent without being compensated. For some, having served is already its own reward. In the case above, the question is, "Is this the case with the CEO's of these car companies?". So gracious of them! Are they for real? Probably not fully. The fact that they were doing it for the grant already revealed their intentions. Their intentions being that it will be temporary. Once they had recovered, they will be back to their previous situation and would recoup what they had sacrificed. "Nothing is free in this world anymore.", they might claim later.
Dollar by blipfish.
What is this for us? A lot! If ever we are experiencing it, it is not only because we are being asked to shoulder their needed cash but more because we are not being compensated well for the use of our money. To explain, banks play the crucial role in this process. Almost everyone of us has savings in a bank. In exchange, banks give us interests for our deposits. In order to pay for those interests and gaining some more, they use all our moneys for investments, loans, and other income generating activities. This is where companies and government come in. They make their loans from banks. If their business is good, they usually obtain loans faster and easier. They repay the banks with interests once they complete their transactions and obtain payments. Then, they loan again and the process is repeated. Meantime, executives and owners profit from loaned money with only their time and effort (maybe some little cash too!) invested. We can see from this process that banks and industries rely so much on depositors for funds. If depositors will withdraw and abandon banking, almost all industries will be affected. What the US government is doing now in saving the present financial meltdown is to loan these industries with government money (read: money from taxes collected from the people). Of course, with interest! But, the companies are to profit more than the government and the people. From where do these companies get their profit? From the people also who are their clients...well, more or less! 
dollar close UP by shyb.
With the world's crisis on global warming, we will be better off with less cars and fuel-consuming machines. Not that we should not anymore manufacture cars, but it is about time to find new alternatives and tap existing but set aside ones like renewable energies. I believe that the world has come to a point of changing its lifestyle. The way we are living and the rate we are going, the world will be devastated even before judgment day! Recent findings of economists reveal that the onslaught of global warming would be more than the devastation of World Wars I and II and the Great Depression combined! Billions of people will die of hunger, thirst, and diseases. The present UNFCCC in Poznan, Poland, is now finalizing a concerted action against climate change caused by global warming. Hopefully, we will have one by December 2009 at the final conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Go to fullsize image
But we have to do our share. We have to be sincere in our effort to fight global warming. Whether we receive a dollar or more a year, as long as we gear our efforts towards the goodness of humankind, we can afford it. But if we continue our merry-but-dangerous ways, dollar or no dollar, we are in for a rough ride. Worse, it will be a slow and painful death!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reparation Is Constitutive of Repentance

Lk. 19:1-10

If only to stress the message of how a truly repentant sinner should reparate, this story of Zacchaeus gives us a very good picture. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, was considered an enemy by his fellow Jews because of the excessive taxes he collected from them. The Roman officials were just concerned about their take. Jews who were assigned to collect for them were free to add whatever amount they wanted. This was the source of anger from their fellow Jews. For this reason, a tax collector like Zacchaeus during the time of Jesus was also considered a great sinner. That is why the Pharisees and the Scribes were scandalized when Jesus partied at the house of Matthew. But that is another story.                   Zacchaeus
Going back to Zacchaeus, he must have heard about Jesus particularly His coming to town. He knew how popular Jesus was. He heard His penetrating Words and His wonderful miracles. Zacchaeus was attracted to Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus! So, he went to find a way to see Him. It was mentioned in the Gospel that he was small of stature. Together with so many people who wanted to have a glimpse of Jesus, it would be impossible for him to meet Jesus. So, even though it was embarrassing, he climbed a sycamore tree. He and Jesus meant to see each other. Jesus must have felt the want of Zacchaeus. So, when Jesus saw Zaccaheus, He approached him and told Zaccaheus the good news of visiting his house. That clinched it for Zacchaeus. The gesture of Jesus was enough for Zacchaeus to realize His care and his need for repentance. Then, everybody heard the pronouncements of a reformed man, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over." How we wish all repentant sinners will also do a la Zacchaeus! We should not only say sorry, but reparate if we have done any damage and repay if we have stolen something. There lies the true sign of a repentant sinner! Because of this Zacchaeus act, Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham." Zacchaeus regained his dignity not only as a Jew but also as a child of God.

Unknowingly maybe, the structure of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is present in the story. The elements maybe found in the story. The elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are; Examination of Conscience, Confession of Sins, Penance, and Absolution. The Examination of Conscience is found in the condition of Zacchaeus before and when he met Jesus. Confession was when he mentioned what he had done to others in terms of fraud and extortion. Penance happened when he promised to repay what he had taken and offered to give to the poor. Absolution happened when Jesus declared that salvation has come to his house.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an effective Sacrament. Zacchaeus helped us understand its true essence. The reparation part had been taken for granted so many times if not totally neglected. Justice requires that we at least do something to repay and reparate. It is the true and effective sign of repentance. Anything short of it makes our repentance questionable. God forgives unconditionally but He expects full contrition if we are to benefit His full forgiveness.

Let us pray for more Zacchaeuses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Humbly Saved Than Being First

Reflection on Lk. 14:1,7-11

The Gospel happened on a Sabbath day and Jesus gave a lesson on humility. Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees for their misguided values. Because of their fanatic adherence to the laws, they had become unconcerned about the conditions of their fellow human beings. They were willing to implement the full force of the law against individuals, like postponing the cure of a sick person, but were willing to compromise it for the care of their animals, like helping an ox that fell on a cistern. The Pharisees believed that fulfilling the law, no matter who was concerned, was the ultimate purpose.

Later, Jesus told the parable on humility in the wedding banquet. This is to send the message that salvation is not determined by individuals; is not guaranteed in the fulfillment of the laws; and received first by those who are righteous. In the same way that the humble is exalted and the exalted is humbled, those who had gone astray and repented would go ahead of those who had been righteous but were not repentant. So many times in the Gospels this month had this been stressed. In fact, the main Gospel of Jesus is about repentance. As soon as He embarked in His ministry after that Baptism at the Jordan, He went about preaching the Gospel of repentance. Jesus was not devaluing nor ignoring the importance of the law and pious activities. But if these were done merely externally and from an arrogant and righteous heart, they will not gain the favor of God. God looks for the repentant heart. God looks for the humble person. God looks for the coming back of the prodigal son!

He gives us a warning in the parable of the wedding banquet. Be careful in determining yourself as already worthy of the Kingdom. You might be surprised! The parable (story) of Jesus about the sheep and the goats reminds us that on the day of judgment, we will be judged according to how we have treated our neighbors. In that parable, Jesus clarified that our service of God is done through our neighbors. When God asks us how we served and not served Him, how we treated our neighbors would be the basis of His judgment. Attendance to Sunday or daily worship, prayers in the adoration chapel, attendance in processions, novenas, and other para-liturgies, fasting and other sacrifices, are not sufficient. Charity counts big in our discipleship. However small are our services to our neighbors, those are services rendered to God. Any service rendered to God is always BIG!

The stress of our Lord in humility now becomes clear. Humility entails service. Service is always making oneself available for the needy other. Whether it is time, talent, or treasure, in whatever measure, when done out of love, it is always very precious to God. Bear in mind and keep in our hearts that we are creatures who are always dependent on God. That alone should remind us to be always humble!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Relevant Answer Out Of A Right Question

Reflection on Lk. 13:22-30

Reiko Repents

While passing through towns, Jesus was asked, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Seems like a very important question. They were interested in salvation. They were interested in the number who will be saved. They were interested in the answer of Jesus who they have developed a respect for. But, interestingly, Jesus did NOT answer the question! Why? His answer will lead us to the answer! This incident again leads us to the heart and mind of the Lord. For Him, the number of those who will be saved and knowing the chances of being saved, were not important compared to HOW one can be saved. Jesus ignored the question but gave an answer that will help more the people. For Him, knowing how many will be saved does not really help much compared to knowing the ways to salvation. In fact, without the knowledge of the ways, even having a great chance to be saved amounts to nothing. The knowledge of knowing one's chances brings him back to where he was before he knew those information.

The Lord Jesus did not stop in telling them hat they had asked the wrong question. Rather, He told them how they could guarantee their salvation. It is not a secret to the Jews the fate of the sinners of their time. The prostitutes, robbers, murderers, adulterers, tax collectors, and other were ostracized in society because of their crimes and sins. They were considered lost, last, and least in society. However, in pointing out to the Jews the mercy of God and the way to salvation, Jesus revealed to them the necessity of repentance for salvation. repentance here means total union with God. The lesson of the Pharisee comes to the picture. No matter how committed we are in our religious obligations and activities, if we had not developed a repentant heart, we can not receive God's justice. The story of the Tax collector and the Pharisee gave us that message. These so called "anawims" and sinners; once they recognize the lord Jesus and repented, God's justice will surely be received by them. Again we remember Matthew, Zacchaeus, Magdalene, Augustine, Peter, and Paul! All great sinners in their time, but all humbles themselves before God! God gave them His mercy; and with God's mercy, salvation.

Therefore, asking the right questions will help us receive the right answers. What we do with the right answers also matters. Once we receive the right answer, let us try to work on them. If we were sincere in our question, we should also be sincere in receiving the answer. Seriously receiving the answer means putting them into action. At this point, it will be good to remember another character in the Gospels; the rich young man. Having been a faithful Jew by following all the commandment since he was a child, he approached the Lord with the same question about salvation. The Lord responded by telling Him to obey the commandments. The man responded that he had done ever since. If it was enough, the Lord could have stopped right there. But it was not enough. The Lord challenged the rich young man to establish his want for the Kingdom by asking him to leave everything and follow Him. We know the story. The rich young man left Jesus. He was told by Jesus what to do. He was surprised. He can not leave his riches. He was so attached to his riches that he could not leave them for Jesus. He is only willing to follow the commandments but he was not willing to go with the "commander"! He was only interested in the grace, but not in the source of grace. He believed that he has better chances of getting salvation through his riches than the Lord who is the source of all riches. Thus, it is revealed, that his heart was not yet for God. He was doing things for the Lord, but he was not yet for the Lord. In that case, salvation is still far from him.

The next time we pray, be aware of the questions we ask the Lord. Are they relevant? Are we willing to accept God's answer? Are we willing to do them? For salvation's sake, do it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Remember When We Were Young...

These thoughts just dawned on me and I said it will be good to write them.

(Photo was borrowed  from www.filipinolifeinpictures.blogspot.com.)
 luksong baka,  a traditional street children's game Philippines Buhay Pinoy  Filipino Pilipino  people pictures photos life Philippinen  jumping

I remember when we were young we used an earthen jar (tapayan) for our drinking water. Refrigerators were just available to the rich then. The tapayan provided us with cold water. If we want it cooler, our father will ask us to buy a block of ice (at 5 centavos only!) from the store which uses it to make their soft drinks cold. Wrapped just in a piece of paper, I would race back to the house because of the discomfort of holding the ice. Buying ice from the store was one errand we dreaded to do!
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I remember when we were young, a school day will start with my mother rising up at about five in the morning to prepare breakfast for us, eight children all! She would brew coffee bought from the store which were re-packed it in paper. At times, she would just brew the same coffee for the next day. Fried rice (sinangag) was always a favorite especially when it will go with scrambled egg and/or dried fish. Bread (pandesal) was also available but usually, we had a choice between fried rice or bread. Because we were so many, not everyone can have both rice and bread. Margarine was also available as spread for the bread. For our school snack, we can have two pieces of bread (bought at 5 centavos each!) and we can spread it with margarine. But if we ran out of margarine, we just have to make do with the bare pandesal or if there were fried rice left, we make a fried rice sandwich out of it!

I remember when we were young, specifically in our elementary days, our "baon" was only five centavos! Then, with five centavos, we can buy any of the following; ice cream, ice drop, piece of bread, banana cue, camote cue, slice of turnip, slice of green mango, five pieces of candy, rice cake, and others. As a come on, vendors would allow us to shoot our five centavo coin into a small bottle at the bottom of a big bottle full of water. If our coin lands in that small bottle, we get back our money and get the good for free. 
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I remember when we were young, we would walk from the house to the school and back. Our school was about a little more than a kilometer away. We went through a lot of "iskinitas" (side streets). Then, walking to and from school, was a regular activity for all of us. We carry our bags full of books that were mostly hard bound. In my case, whenever I have to catch up with my assignments which I forgot to answer the previous day, I would do my assignment while walking to school! Something like this also happened when I took the board exam for Agricultural Engineering (That story deserves another post.). 

These days, every elementary schooler walks to school. Most are being serviced by tricycles! Wow! In our days, it was very rare. Usually, even the rich were being brought to school with their parents by car. Times had really change. I asked a parent about it and the answer was quite reasonable. They were investing for security reasons. Many children just suddenly disappear and their whereabouts unknown even to these days. They were afraid that their children will be the next victim. Spending for their transportation for security reasons, they believe, was very much worth it. I agree but I am very sad about it. The money spent for "security" would be most useful to these people in another way specially because they are already stretching their budgets to cope with everyday needs. But I guess they do not have much choice. It is hard to risk the safety of their children. In that sense, we were more lucky because we did not have that threat. Well, ces la vie!

These are all for now... more to come ... still when we were young.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Advent: Longing For The Lord


In recent years, when September comes, many already begin to make countdowns for Christmas. Most radio, television, and even the print media make this "anticipation" of Christmas. Department stores start planning and displaying Christmas decorations. Even goods usually reserved for the Christmas season are already on display. Offices and houses begin to decorate. The danger of this is that Spirit of Christmas is being ushered-in prematurely. Many believe that Christmas need not be on December 25 alone. In fact, the Tagalog song says, "At, magbuhat ngayon, kahit hindi Pasko ay magbigayan." True, everyday is Christmas. It is true in the sense that we have to sustain and exercise the Spirit of thanking God for humbling Himself by becoming one like us. But if we are to savor and achieve its true essence, preparation for it is necessary and inevitable. The only way it can be fully appreciated and celebrated is when we go through an intense internal preparation in a season called, Advent.

The Advent Season is a four-Sunday preparation for the big event of Christmas. It captures back the experience of the Jews who were eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. "Maranatha!" (Come, Lord Jesus!). The Jews, because of their exiled situation, longed for the coming of the Messiah, their believed Savior. Because of their suffering and aching for the presence of God, they begged Him to send the Messiah, who He had promised through the prophets. Everyday, they looked around and above to see signs of His coming. And one day, he did; on a silent night and a holy night. Although the Lord had already come thousands of years ago, we are asked to re-live it both in memory of the First Coming and in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus during the season of Advent.

The effective preparation is repentance. The Lord, not Santa Claus, is coming not anywhere but in us; particularly in our hearts. Therefore, it is the heart that must be ready for the Messiah's entrance. We allot more communication time with God. We ask Him to enlighten us with the sins we have committed and inspire us of the things that we have done well. We are encouraged to make sacrifices not only in atonement for our sins but also to discipline ourselves and be braced well for the temptations that are yet to come. And we go out of ourselves to help our neighbor whether with our time, talent, or treasure. Blessed really is the servant whom the Lord will find waiting for Him when He comes!

Therefore, celebrations before Christmas day are off or counter to the Christmas Spirit! Christmas parties must be celebrated after December 25, the beginning of the Christmas Season. Decorations must be more full and alive during these times. Gifts are more properly given during the Christmas season. Singing carols are very appropriately heard starting Christmas day through out the season. The external preparations must reflect the internal preparation that is happening. If the internal requirement is repentance and longing for the coming of the Messiah, then what should be our external manifestations?  "Elementary, my Dear Watson!"

We all want a happy Christmas. There are those who had claimed they had happy Christmases. Essentially and truly, the authentically happy Christmas is when we have accepted God's offer of peace through the birth of His Son. Christmas is God's loving invitation to be united with Him and our response in faith through repentance. All other fruits are mere bonuses!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Heart Of The Matter Is the Matter Of the Heart.

Reflection on LK. 18:9-14

the heart of the matter by mappamundi.
This scene is a good example of understanding God's justice. We can not pay our way to heaven. But we can always find it. The incident reveals the true essence of serving the Lord. Quantity matters, but quality in terms of humility counts. Actions are good, but the best intentions should be its source. It is not the hurt that an act would entail but the heart that goes with it. Repentance is the sacrifice (offering) most pleasing to God. Humility brings us to our true place with God. All our good works are meant to be a thanksgiving to God who was responsible for everything that we have and achieved. God does not and will never owe us anything. There is nothing we can do for Him. Everything that we do and are asked to do are for our neighbors and for ourselves. God's plan is for all of us to be saved. Knowing, loving, and serving God are meant to make us worthy of the Kingdom. Realizing this truth makes us work more and at the same time humbles us more. As Jesus said in the Gospels, good servants, after they had done what everything for the master, should say to themselves that they only did what they were supposed to do and therefore should regard themselves as unworthy ones. The point of the Lord is that our lives were meant to be a thanksgiving (liturgy=living sacrifice) to God.

The sharp contrast of the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple provides us a clearer idea of our responsibility and how we attain God's justice (the Kingdom). The Pharisee took a good position in the temple; praised himself and even measured himself against the tax collector; lastly, he reminded God about his accomplishments by mentioning his acts of fasting and tithes. He gives us the idea that because of what he had done, God owes him! The Pharisee was short of saying to God to be proud of him and therefore must reward him. On the other hand, the tax collector located himself as far away from God as he can; would not even raise his eyes to heaven; beats his breast and prayed. He was showing an attitude of utmost humility. He feels unworthy and in dire need of forgiveness. His words of contrition and begging for mercy were all he can do to express to God how sorry he was in offending God. For Jesus, the tax collector went home justified while the Pharisee did not.

Does this mean that all of the good things that the Pharisee had done were for naught? No. The actions of the Pharisee were good per se. Unfortunately for him, the Lord does not only consider the act. Jesus was also concerned about the heart that went with the act. This is understandable because we know that actions maybe "good" but may come from evil intentions. The devil, in fact, can make use of "good" actions to attain his goals; e.g. it will convince you to go to mass instead of reviewing for your exams. It wants you to fail in the guise of wanting you to be "holy". On the other hand, essentially evil actions can not be justified by the best of intentions.  For example, aborting a baby to avoid responsibility or embarrassment does not agree with the Will of God. Good intentions and good actions must go together. The matters of the heart are the heart of the matter. 

God's justice was fulfilled in the tax collector. He may have done much bad and not done much good, but he gave more heart. By being humble and very contrite, he gained the respect and mercy of God. Opening his heart to God made possible the entry of God's grace of forgiveness. New life in him resulted in the process. The beauty of this is that God's justice is available to all at all times. God may have made each one of us unique, but He made all of us with a heart. A heart where His words had been inscribed. A heart where He dwells and constantly prods us to follow His Will. A heart where we can always find His wonderful presence. A heart that will help us to see our true place with Him and lovingly encourage us to go back to Him. It does not matter to God whether we are rich or poor, powerful or powerless, white or black, woman or man, priest or lay, educated or not etc. Our heart's desires and actions determine our worthiness for God's justice!

The First Right Step.

Reflection on Lk. 13:1-9

Sometimes we have a tendency to cover ourselves by pointing to the faults of others. We thought that by putting the light on somebody, we can evade judgment. We thought by blaming others, our own blames will disappear. The fact is, it is temporary. What we have, we have. We may not be in center stage, but we are still going up the stage. The Gospel today exposes that effort of the people to put the blame on the Galileans. To expose the the "exposers" , in turn, Jesus even included the eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. Jesus, in both cases was quick to tell them that the way they died does not necessarily measure their guilt. He was leading them to the essence of repentance as the key to change and holiness and not dwell on the bad fate that befell other people. Focusing on the way of death may temper our guilt. Admitting once guilt and repenting for one's sin resolve everything. Therefore, anybody who does not acknowledge his sin may be even worse than those who had suffered and died.

Jesus was still dealing here with the hard-headedness and hard-heartedness of the people. They were being hurt and threatened by the words of Jesus. Instead of applying those words to themselves, they would rather point to somebody. They were confused of Jesus. Who is this person? How could the son of a carpenter and an ordinary lass say these words? He came from Nazareth where nothing good was expected! Their eyes were being blinded by their biases. Jesus can not be the Messiah they were waiting for. They could not accept this kind of messiah. And yet He makes sense. He was able to penetrate their soul. They could not deny the truth of His words. Even the traps they had laid before Him had been convincingly answered and refuted. Just who is Jesus?

This thinking will continue and affect them the whole time of their interaction with Jesus. Jesus was an enigma to them. But Jesus knew this. That is why He tried to enlighten them about Himself. He gave them opportunities to accept Him. He spoke in words and situations that were familiar to them. He told them the parable of the fig tree to give them the message that God is patient. God, in fact, cares for them and takes care of them as signified by the digging and the manuring of the tree. The parable expresses the hope of Jesus for the people. Jesus did not believe that Israel's final answer was a "no" or a total and absolute rejection of Him. He was right. They may have succeeded in crucifying Him and putting Him to death, but His disciples testify to the fact that not all of Israel rejected Him. Through the apostles, the Christian faith was born and became the locus of interaction between God and His People. Up to now, God is being patient. He wanted us to be with Him. As Jesus promised, no one was lost. When He died on the cross, He died once and for all!

As for us, the grace of salvation had already been merited to us by Jesus. But we have to accept that grace. To accept it, we must be worthy of it. Unworthiness renders it useless. Even if God had given it as a gift, worthiness is the only state we can fully benefit from it. And we can start by accepting our weaknesses and walk the road of repentance. That is how change happens. If all of us will decide to change, change happens right there. But if we require others to change first, then nothing happens (because the other also requires us to change first!). 

The Prodigal Son. Zacchaeus, Matthew, Peter, the thief, and others who had recognized their sins and their need to be one again with God, all made the first right step to conversion. Repentance.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Straigthway To Heaven

November 2, 2008
Feasts of All Souls

In the '70', there was a song that became popular not only because of its innovative and excellent rock beat but because of its length (seven minutes!). The song was sung by the group Led Zeppelin and was entitled "Stairway To Heaven". The opening line in a summarizes the whole song, "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold; And she's buying a stairway to heaven." This, in a way, tells the essence of the song about the quest of a lady to find heaven.

Today, All Soul's Day is being celebrated by the Church for all the faithful departed who are still undergoing whole cleansing (purgation) so that they will be worthy of the Kingdom. They are, in a manner of speaking, finding their "stairway to heaven". Yesterday, All Saints Day, was a day dedicated to all those who are already in God's Kingdom; those who had found their stairway to heaven.

Our faith recognizes that we are grouped depending on the status of our relationship to the Kingdom; Triumphant or the saints who are already in the Kingdom, Militant or those who are still here on earth journeying towards the Kingdom, and Patient or Suffering or those who already died and are undergoing purgation. In our Creed, we profess that we are in Communion. We continue to do good works and pray for each other. We thank and praise God for crowning our love ones who had lived faithfully on this earth by making them saints and enter the Kingdom. At the same time, we ask for their intercession because they had been a witness to the love of Jesus. For us who are still living our lives here on earth, we continue to struggle in living up to the challenges of our faith according to the Will of God. We are asked to pray and do good to our neighbors. God's mercy must be shared to everyone. But it is not limited to our neighbors here. It is much more important to be shared to those in "purgatory" who had already been held helpless by their death. If we are asked to do charity and prayers for our neighbors here who are still capable of availing themselves of the God's justice and mercy, how much more are those who are only relying on the intercession of others. To pray and offer works of mercy for the departed faithful is the most charitable act we, here on earth, can do!

Maybe we wonder why the "purgatory?" But what is the Purgatory? By the word itself, it means cleansing. We believe that a person who had the smallest sin is not worthy of the Kingdom. The soul of that person has to be cleansed. Note that it is not because God does not want the soul, but because the soul is not worthy of the state it will enter into. The provision of the Purgatory is in fact God's way of assuring the soul of entrance into the Kingdom. We have to remember that even the souls in Purgatory are heirs of the Kingdom. It had been assured to every soul by virtue of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior, and that their names are written in heaven. There is no way but up (heaven) for the souls. However, they can not but undergo cleansing which is a patient suffering of punishment incurred because of sin. Purgatory also makes us realize how God hated sin. How this act, no matter how small can impede our journey towards eternal life. Jesus, during His ministry, had stressed it so many times that we were really made aware of the consequences of our opposing actions. God hopes that we will prevail. But God knows, many will fail; therefore, the  Purgatory!

We are really graced! The challenge rests more on us here on earth who can still avoid Purgatory and go straight to heaven. In that song "Stairway To Heaven", the lady was told, "Yes, there are two paths you can go by; But in the long run, there is still time to change the road you're on." We can choose to trek the road to the Kingdom, if we want. Alone, we can not do it. God will lead us to it if we want. In the same song, it says to the lady,"Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know your stairway lies on whispering wind?" For us Christians, the whispering wind is the Spirit of God which blows us to the Kingdom. So, why pass by Purgatory when we can go straight to heaven?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes, Even Though It Is Hard.

Reflection on Lk. 13:31-35

Previous to this Gospel scene was the call of Jesus to repentance. Repentance is what will make us "recline  at table in the Kingdom of God." But before the day ended, some Pharisees came to Him and asked Him to go away because of the threat of Herod to kill Him. It was not really a concern for Jesus but for fear that they will be blamed for what happened to Him. Jesus had already gained a lot of following and the Pharisees do not know what the crowd will do in case something happened to Jesus. But Jesus was not afraid. He knew the consequences of His action. He knew His fate in Jerusalem. Prophets had met their fate in Jerusalem. His fate will not be different.

The mention of the days (today, tomorrow, and the third day, including the half day He was spending) were significant to the Jewish listeners of Jesus, and thus to us too today. Those days refer to days of persecution and rejection. Jesus was giving the message that we will also have our days of persecution when we live our being prophets of God. Christian life is not a bed of roses. In our quest to preach the Gospel, many will reject us. Many will taunt us and make fun of us for believing in the Word. But as Jesus said in His lament over Jerusalem, "Behold, your house will be abandoned. But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Those who will reject the Word will suffer. Those who will not listen would experience the pain of longing for the presence of God. It will be the severest longing anyone could experience. Having had the chance to hear and be graced by the Word, but decided instead to be take it for granted, they suffer the consequence of only hearing it again at the final judgment.

The suffering is worth it. At least our Lord Jesus was honest about it. We have seen it happen to all the prophets. We have seen it happen even to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God! He grace us an example. He led and lived the way. It should inspire us more than make us afraid. It should give us courage more than weakness. It should make us hopeful and not desperate. And it should make us faithful and not doubtful. Quo Vadis? There is no other way, for Jesus is the Way! 

It is hard to believe; but it is harder not to believe. It is hard to be a Christian; but it is harder not to be one. It is hard to be one with God; but it is harder to be separated from Him. The choice is clear.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Law Must Lead To Love

Reflection on Lk. 13:10-17

jesus-crippled.bmp (322650 bytes)

When I was a seminarian, our Rector would post a note the week before final exams week advising us to study hard, and take care of our health. At the end of the note he says, "During Final Exam week, nobody is allowed to get sick!" Of course we knew that it was said in "tongue-in-cheek". Our Rector was reminding us that the coming week is very important that we can not afford to get sick. Unfortunately, this part of life is hard to control. All we can do is to avoid it in the best way we can. 

In the Gospel today, it seems that the leader of the synagogue, in his desire to implement the Sabbath, was serious in legislating sickness. Because Jesus cured on a Sabbath, he said to the crowd, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on Sabbath Day." But Jesus would have nothing of it. For Him, anybody who is sick should be attended to immediately, Sabbath or no Sabbath. For Jesus, Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath. Jesus showed the leader the real spirit behind the law on Sabbath. Yes, there must be a day dedicated to worship God, but the law of love prevails. The leaders of the synagogue was called hypocrites by Jesus because they too break the Sabbath, not for a neighbor, but for an ox or an ass! For them, the curing of a woman bounded by Satan for eighteen years is less important than caring for their animals. 

Laws are important. Even God gave us the Ten Commandments as guides towards our journey to the Kingdom. Every community, family, or group have laws and guidelines to assist them towards their destiny. Laws help us to obtain a discipline. Constant adherence to the law helps us imbibe the spirit of the law and later achieve the goal of the law. Once we obtain the discipline, our lives become free of the law. The law now becomes our way of life. It is similar to using a map in order to reach destinations when we are in an unfamiliar place. The more we frequent the place using the same route, the more we get familiar to it. We even get to know other ways of reaching the place. Once we have been used to it, the map becomes useless. Life is a lot similar to that.

Christian life includes following some laws. We go to mass every Sunday. Regular going to mass hopefully should lead us to appreciating its value in our life. The singing, the responses, the listening to the Word of God, holy communion, professing the Creed, etc., should slowly lead us to a deeper understanding of the mass. Every Sunday that we encounter the Lord Jesus, in His Word, in His Body, in His priest, and in our neighbors, we gain a closer and meaningful relationship with God. When we come to a point when every Sunday celebration is not a burden but a celebration anymore, then the law has now been replaced with Love. We become lovers. They say that "love is blind." There is truth to it but only in the context that lovers see deeper! Because of love, they are capable of acting more than what the law could offer. When love becomes the law, life becomes fully lived.

God Recognizes The Repentant

Reflection on Lk. 13:22-30

The one who asked the Lord regarding how many people will be saved, was on the right track. Salvation is the foremost concern of anyone at all times. But he missed the point when he was more concerned about the number of people who will be saved. This was exposed when Jesus did not answer the question. He completely ignored it! Rather, He dwelt on the more important question of "how we can  one be saved?" For indeed, what will the knowledge of our chances of being saved do if we do not know the way to be saved? Numbers would give us an idea of our possibilities but they do not effect what we want to achieve.

The Lord Jesus said that the gate is narrow. The way to salvation is not easy. But if we do the right thing, we can inch our way in no matter how hard it is. Jesus corrected the thinking of some who believed that by being associated with Him, salvation is guaranteed. In our present context, He refers to those who pray, worship on Sundays, do acts of charity, make sacrifices, receive sacraments and others, but are not repentant. This seems incongruent. But it is true. There are people who can do pious things devoid of pious intentions. There are people who can do pious things but are internally not in union with God. We have heard of people who gave donations to charities but you wonder where those money were coming from?  People who join religious activities but do not extend the spirit of those activities to their housemates, friends, and clients. People who know the bible well but fail to put them into action with the right intention! The Pharisees were the perfect example of these things. Jesus called then "hypocrites", meaning "to act out" or "to play a part". Particularly it means "to preach a certain belief but, in fact, not holding those beliefs by oneself."

The surprise will be when they get to meet the Lord for judgment. The Lord will not recognize them. They may remind the Lord about the things they had done or their association with Him, but He will deny even their origin. To be recognized by the Lord, we have to have a repentant heart. Repentance is the "how" of salvation. We are saved when interiorly we are united with God. When everything we do comes from the heart that is sincere and repentant, then we have gained the key to the door of the Kingdom. This gives hope to everyone even those who are long and deep into sin. Responding to the grace of humility and repentance is the apple of God's merciful eyes.

Zacchaeus, a tax collector and known sinner in Jesus' time gained salvation because of his repentance. Matthew, also a tax collector was visited and invited by Jesus to be one of His apostles. He also repented. Peter denied the Lord thrice but repented later. he was made the leader of His Church. Judas Iscariot, if he repented instead of hanging himself, could have gained salvation too! Jesus might have said that the last will be first and the first will be last, but bottom line is, everyone who repents will make it. it does not matter whether you are the last or the first.

It's The Message, More Than The Name And The Linkage

Reflection on Lk. 6:12-16
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude Thaddeus, Apostles

Communion of the Apostles by Luca Signorelli

We remember the apostles for the lives they had lived. We recognize the witnessing they had done for the Lord Jesus. Because of them, the Lord Jesus becomes more present in His words and deed.

The call of the apostles revealed part of the plan of God. Salvation will begin in Israel (Chosen People) and from there, it will extend all over the world. God meant to include man in the work of salvation. This is reflective of the dynamics of salvation; (St. Augustine) " God created us without our consent; God will not save us without our consent." He first chose twelve men who will follow Him wherever He goes. Later, they will be sent to mission to those who are in need of salvation. What they had heard; what they had seen and looked at and what they had touched with their own hands, will be passed on to generation to generation for the salvation of all. Jesus was founding an organization which will continue to propagate the Christian faith. Now, we call that organization as the Church. 

There are questions today about which church is the true Church of Jesus Christ? Many groups claim, by their own reasons, as the True Church of Jesus Christ. Many appeal by the very name they call their Church. Some claim it because they can trace their roots in Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church, our faith and our church, does not give the former reason. We have a proof of the latter but even that is not our main reason why we claim to be the True Church of Jesus Christ. We are the True Church because we are faithful to the message that Jesus Christ had given during His ministry. This is the essence of the True Church. For even if we can trace our roots in detail to the Lord Jesus or use the very name He wants for His Church, the more important element of His true Church is the presence of His message of salvation. St. Paul experienced and realized this in the community where the original apostles lived. Paul claimed to be an apostle. The other apostles challenged it. Paul claimed that the Lord appeared to him on his way to Damascus. The risen Lord revealed to him the message of salvation. His claim of being an apostle was not just because of the appearance of the risen Christ to him but by the very message he preaches;

               "I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you 
                by the grace of Christ for a different Gospel. But there are some who are 
                disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, 
                or an angel form heaven should preached to you a gospel other than the 
                one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Gal. 1:6-9)

Therefore, what matters is faithfulness to the message. We believe that these messages from the Lord Jesus had been preserved by the apostles like Simon and Jude. When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded them to proclaim the Good News to all. The apostles acted as one in this mission. This mission and message (deposit of faith) were passed on from generation to generation. From the apostles,  the tasked is now given to the ordained ministry (Pope, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons)  and the baptized to proclaim the Good News of salvation. What we have received from the apostles is what we now profess. If it comes from the apostles, it must be true! Thanks to the apostles.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hard Life Made Easier

Reflection on Lk. 12:54-59

It should not happen, but it is happening. It should have been avoided, but it was not avoided. We have a lot to help us cope with the challenges of life, but we choose to ignore them. "History repeats itself.", the saying goes. This is the concern of Jesus in the Gospel today. He was speaking before people who are very much experienced in the behavior of the weather even if they do not have the modern gadgets that we have now. They know how to read signs. Their lives depend on it! But, they fail to apply it in other parts of their lives. The sign of Jesus fell flat on the ground. Jesus appeared to them and gave them many signs. But they ignored them. Jesus called them "hypocrites" as a result. For how can they read weather signs and fail to read clear and concrete signs like the miracles, the prophesies, and the teachings of Jesus! These signs were bursting with truths and critical messages for them.

This prompted Jesus to ask them why they are stubborn about doing what is right? Why sue and go to trial when they can settle outside of court? Why spend time, effort, and treasure for something that can be agreed? Even today, this is being repeated a lot of times. Instead of arranging an agreement, they resort to courts. Jesus had reasons to react because in the first place, God created an orderly universe. The world was meant to be peaceful. But we humans seem to prefer conflicts, disagreements, wars, violence, and other troubles. St. Paul pointed this out to the early Christians when because of their selfishness, they had begun destroying each other and in the process, destroying the community. 

Everybody wants peace and yet, the efforts being made to attain it are not enough. It seems that there is a lack of sincerity in achieving it. Also, it is possible that it is not enough for the sacrifice it will require. Nevertheless, it is necessary and ultimately, it must be gained. Hopefully, it will not be too late. The Lord's admonition is to avoid unwanted consequences. He prefers that we brace ourselves for the meaningful challenges. What we can settle, let us settle. What we can do, let us do it now. Let us make use of our God-given talents. let us make use of every opportunity to attain peace. Let us do what we can for we may never pass this way again. Life is short. Spending it for unnecessary sufferings is being hypocrite and proud. And as the oldies, like me, would say, "I am too old for this!"

The Power Of One

(This was written last May 4, 2005  for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. I found it in my files and I said it might be relevant especially when our society is being threatened by division. I also remembered the day when we reached our target of twenty-five million to cover the rest of the expenses for the construction of our church. !t was achieved because of being One. Our community lived and witness the essence of the Trinity. The title is very apt indeed!)
The Holy Trinity by  El Greco

My dear people of God,

Peace be with you!

As Catholic Christians, we believe in ONE GOD. But the experience of our elders showed that our God has three Persons; GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. We further believe that they are distinct from each other yet equal in divinity. In every divine action, all three persons are present. GOD acts as ONE. They acted and are still acting as ONE in CREATION. They ACT and still are acting as ONE in SALVATION.

The communion of the Trinity is not only for the Trinity. It is in fact a model for each Christian community. It is a model for our community. At present, we are tasked to build our church (our place of worship) and our Church (our community of believers). I have to admit that they are two great tasks. Only one needs to experience building a house to know and appreciate the difficulties, intricacies, and complexities of building a church. One only needs to experience the process of organizing a group to know and appreciate the demands, resources, and efforts and commitments needed to establish and put into action an active Church. Today, more than any day, we need every pair of hands, every willing mind, every generous heart, and every body to fulfill these tasks

While I have said during my installation that I came here not to build buildings but to build people, the tragedy of the burning of our church made me redefine it. I am now here to build people through the building of our church with you and with the grace of God! It is our church. This is our community. I will be here to be with you and guide you in achieving our tasks. My ministry is at the service of all souls in this community as long as I am here. But we can achieve better if you are with me. If we will combine all our God-given talents, God will surely see us through. I earnestly encourage you to share not only what you have but most especially yourself. Together we will build our church and our Church. That is the power of being ONE; being ONE of the Trinity and the being ONE of the community.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jesus, The Rock That Makes Me Roll.

Reflection on Lk. 12:49-53

Two statements here are un-Jesus-like. " I have come to bring fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled." and "Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No. I tell you, rather, division." Was Jesus serious when He said this? Was He not a peacemaker? Was He not an advocate of  forgiveness and kindness? Why these statements?

The statements were undoubtedly strong. The messages of Jesus were strong, that was why! If we reflect closely to the statements of Jesus, He really meant well. He said these statements to stress His points. Fire maybe a devastating element but it has its uses; for cooking, for warming, and disinfecting, etc. But fire is also used to purify; to separate the impurities from valuable elements like gold. That is why we have a saying, "A test of fire is a test of gold!"

And that is the point of Jesus in the Gospel. He wanted to challenge His listeners to determine and make their stand. Christian life is absolute faithfulness and commitment to God. There are no compromises. Lukewarm life of faith is not acceptable. Either you are a fully committed and passionate faithful or none at all. The Kingdom of God is the only Kingdom. There is only one king, and that is Christ the King. The only way He can make them commit themselves was to challenge them with His Word and Deed. And the best would be if they will be put to test, i.e. to see themselves in the light of what He preached and witness to. He expressed His great concern when He wished that it had started already!

It is in this same context that He gave the other message of division and not peace. Following the Lord Jesus can not but put relationships to test. The teachings of the Lord would really subject relationships to test, at times destroying the peace and introducing division. The teachings of forgiveness, repentance, loving neighbor, morality, respect, detachment and others, nothing but create tensions in all relationships. It is the hope of Jesus that everyone will embrace Him. If not, then division, not peace will prevail. For the Lord Jesus, this is better than living in civility, lukewarmness, and toleration which is anything but merely allowing a peaceful co-existence among brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus would rather encourage people to be willing to abandon everything and everyone for the Lord rather than place everyone on the same level or at times compromise God Himself. Full faith in the Lord is required. Christian Peace is attained only in unity with God even when one is divided from everyone. Again, it is not the intention of the Lord to merely rock the boat for the sake of rocking it. He rocks it so as to place everyone where they should be. 

In the end, the ultimate purpose of Jesus iss to recover everybody to His fold. He will do everything even as far as jolting and putting in the heat on us. That is how much He cares for us. heaven will be very happy for every one person who would repent. Jesus would not settle for only one, ten, hundreds, thousands etc. He wants everyone. That was His promise to His Father, "No one was lost!".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saints are us!

Reflection on Lk. 10:1-9
Feast of St. Luke

St Luke Drawing a Portrait of the Madonna, WeydenWe honor today St. Luke, the Evangelist. He wrote one of the four known Gospels of Jesus Christ. He was also known as the man behind the book of the Acts of the Apostles. His symbol was the calf or the ox, the sacrificial animal, because he opened his Gospel with the story of Zachary and his son, John the Baptist. He was considered as an excellent writer because of his good command of the Hebraic and Greek languages and adeptness of their cultures.

His Gospel is very similar to Matthew in that they both focused on the "anawims" of society. The less fortunate widows, beggars, prisoners,and the sick found a defendant in St. Luke and his community. He was inspired to write the Good News for these people who had captured the attention of God. The sending of the apostles in the Gospel reading today reminds us of our task as Christians. As Christians, we are being sent to bring the Good News of salvation to the needy. In the Beatitudes, Jesus clarified that blessedness does not consist in one's status but how and why that status is lived! Being rich, happy, or free do not necessarily mean blessedness. In the same way, being sad, poor, or enslaved do not necessarily mean being cursed. When the above are lived in faith and because of God, then one is blessed. When the above are lived against the very Will of God, then one is cursed. These are some of the messages why a Christian is being sent. Other important Christian teachings are forgiveness, peace, love, justice, and hope. Luke, a Christian, wrote all of these in his account of the Gospel.

The proclamation of the Gospel is also characterized by urgency. Jesus stressed that those who are sent should act with alacrity and concern. In fact, if there are people who would not readily accept the Good News, do not waste time with them. Rather, the one sent should go to the next person or community. In this case, more people will be given the opportunity to hear, understand, and live the Good News of salvation.

The apostles, the prophets, the Gospel writer, and the priest are not the only one's sent. Every Christian, by virtue of their Baptism, has that responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. The best way is to live those messages. The apostles had given us an example that we must imitate. This is the main reason why we remember them and celebrate their feasts. The mass Preface for Holy men and Women states, "You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowning of your gifts. In their lives on earth You give us an example." Praising them for what they did is secondary. The lives lived by saints like St. Luke are being given emphasis because they had not really left us like the Lord, but are continually guiding us from heaven, " Through the apostles You watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of Your Son, and from their place in heaven they guide us still.", says the priest in the Preface for the Apostles. What they had achieved, we are also expected to achieve. What they had achieved, we can also achieve in our own way. God made holy men and women from the beginning. Sin just entered and embraced by them. But God gives us the grace to recover our original blessing. The holy men and women also went through that same route. Sin can be defeated. Holiness can be recovered. Thanks for saints like Luke. We can be like them too!